EXCLUSIVE: It would be the biggest star pairing on a TV series in a long long time. Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence are considering pairing up to star in and produce a multi-camera comedy together for Lionsgate TV and its subsidiary Debmar-Mercury. We hear it started with a November meeting right before Thanksgiving between Grammer, Lawrence and Lionsgate where the two actors showed great chemistry. The pair are repped by different agencies: Grammer by WME, and Lawrence by UTA. But Grammer’s financial settlement with recently divorced wife Camille wasn’t yet finalized and he ordered everybody not to discuss the project until it was. (We hear the concern was that Camille might try to lay claim to the project. She reportedly owned half of Grammnet Productions with its television shows including Girlfriends, Medium, and The Game and worked as a creator, writer, and executive producer within the production company.) That financial settlement finalized right before Christmas and now the project is on a fast track. In the past few weeks, the studio has quietly sent out feelers to writers. In coming weeks, the studio will start meeting with potential creators/showrunners to pin down a concept for the buddy series which sources say may have an “odd couple” feel.
We hear the comedy would follow the production model of Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management, also produced by Lionsgate TV and distributed by Debmar-Mercury. Most recently, Anger Management following an original 10-episode run was given a back-90 pickup by FX and has been sold to the Fox stations. Under Debmar-Mercury’s 10-90 template, the company sells sitcoms to cable networks with an initial 10-episode straight-to-series order, which if a ratings target is met triggers a multi-season order as big as 90 episodes. The idea is for Debmar-Mercury to quickly amass enough episodes for the sitcom’s launch in broadcast syndication. The company first introduced that model with Tyler Perry’s House Of Payne followed by Perry’s Meet The Browns and Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet? — all on TBS. The trio received large back orders by the network. Additionally under the 10-90 model, Debmar-Mercury has been developing a family sitcom starring George Lopez.
The series would mark Grammer’s return to his Cheers/Frasier sitcom roots and his 20-year stint playing psychiatrist Frasier Crane, a role which earned him four Emmy Awards. It also re-teams him with Lionsgate which produced his drama series Boss that recently ended its run on Starz after two seasons. Meanwhile Debmar-Mercury had been mulling a potential 10-90 comedy vehicle for Lawrence, who toplined his eponymous sitcom on Fox for 5 years. Lawrence segued to movies following the success of the 1995 Bad Boys but tested the TV waters last season with a CBS deal that yielded a comedy pilot. Lawrence also is repped by The Collective, and Grammer’s manager/producing partner is Brian Sher.